Antisemitism in Australia 2019, and how to counter it
Although Australia remains a relatively safe and free environment for its small Jewish population, there have been some disturbing trends in anti-Jewish incidents over the past year. There were major spikes in some categories of serious incidents — especially in incidents of verbal abuse, harassment and intimidation of Jews, and of hate graffiti directed at Jews.
There were 368 antisemitic incidents logged in the 12 months to 30 September 2019 by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. While this amounted to a small increase from the previous 12-month period, which saw a 59 percent increase in incidents, it shows that there was no decline from the previous high level of incidents. The number of incidents for the 2019 period was 56 percent higher than the average number over the previous seven years.
During the 2019 period, there were several reported instances of physical assault, mostly without causing serious injury — such as shoving and pushing of Jews and throwing hard objects at them. One egregious incident of physical assault was of a 12-year-old Jewish boy, which occurred at a public school in Melbourne, where the boy was punched in the face, had skin gouged out of his shoulder and was bruised extensively across his back. He required hospital treatment for his injuries.
However, the desire and intention to physically harm Jews was not confined to a hand or fist used against a Jew. During a sentencing hearing in May 2019 for Ihsas Khan, aged 23, who had stabbed his neighbour in Sydney in 2016, it was revealed that he had planned to kill Jews. Khan had bought the large knife with the intent to take it to the university that he attended and to kill as many Jews as he could. His plan became unstuck when he attacked his neighbour, thus thwarting his own murderous plan. As is apparent in the example of Ihsas Khan, there are still people inspired by ideological hatred of Jews and who seek to harm or murder Jews.
Verbal abuse, harassment and intimidation of Jews is the category which usually has the highest number of incidents each year. During the 2019 reporting period, there was a 30 percent increase from the previous year in reported incidents in this category. This demonstrates that antisemites felt increasingly emboldened to behave in an aggressive, confrontational and menacing way towards Jews who were doing nothing more than going about their daily lives.
Some of the expressions of this face-to-face abuse included: “You f***ing Jew bastard”; “You f***ing Jews!”; “It’s a shame that Hitler didn’t kill all the Jews”; “You should have died in the Holocaust!”; “You Jew c***! Hitler was right. He should have killed you all!”; “Fucking selfish c*** of a Jew! You should’ve died in Auschwitz”; “I’ll f***ing stab you!”; “All Jews deserve to die!”; “Gas the Jews!”; “I want to kill all the Jewish”; “I’ll put a bullet in your fucking gob.” Others simply yelled out “Heil Hitler,” “Sieg Heil” or “Allahu Akbar” when they see Jews.
Many of the incidents of abuse, harassment and intimidation were also directed at Jewish children, often occurring at school, on public transport or near their homes. In one case, a 5-year-old Jewish boy was repeatedly abused with being called “Jewish vermin,” “dirty Jew” and “Jewish cockroach” over several months, in the bathrooms of his Melbourne school, by a group of five classmates. The boy was removed from the school, and is being home-schooled.
In another case, a 12-year-old Jewish boy, also at a school in Melbourne, was enticed to a public park with the offer of a game of football, but was given the ultimatum by the ringleader of a group of nine boys that he kneel down and kiss the feet of another student or be physically assaulted by the eight other boys. To avoid a bashing, the Jewish boy complied, by kneeling down and kissing the feet.
Acts of vandalism mostly consisted of etching swastikas into property belonging to Jews, like homes and businesses. Other incidents included setting a Jewish sign at a cemetery on fire, damage to a mezuzah (an item on a Jewish home) and the like. One Jewish home had their front lawn poisoned in the shape of a swastika.
Graffiti was one of the outstanding features of incidents for 2019 with more than double the number of incidents, with 95 reported incidents, over the previous year. Graffiti is seen by some as one way to measure the temperature of antisemitism, through the amount and the words and images used.
These incidents included graffiti with the words: “No Jews”; “no Jews aloud [sic]”; “No More Jews”; “F*** Jews”; “Jews = EVIL”; “Synagogue of Satan”; “9/11 was a [sic] inside job. 100% Jews”; “All Jews – Rats”; “Hitler was right!”; “The Holocaust is a lie”; and “The Holocaust didn’t happen but it should have.” Often these were accompanied by graffiti of “Heil Hitler,” “Sieg Heil,” “White Power,” swastikas, Nazi SS bolts and crossed-out Jewish Stars of David. One Jewish family had a metre-sized swastika painted on the road outside their home.
More disturbing was that the graffiti often called for the murder of Jews: “KILL JEWS”; “Kill the Jews”; “Kill all Jews”; “GAS THE JEWS”; “Gas the Kikes.” These also were usually accompanied by graffiti supporting Hitler and Nazism, in words and symbols. Much of this graffiti was written in public places, such as buses, trains, parks, buildings, as well as near Jewish community venues. Two sites of graffiti stand out.
One set of graffiti spread over a large building complex in Prahran, Melbourne, in July 2019 included the words: “Reject Jewish Poison”; “Gas Kikes”; “Zionist Occupied Government”; “Smash Zog”; “Hitler Was Right”; “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong”; “Sieg Heil”; “Hitler Youth”; “Rape Jews”; “Jews Hate Us Revolt”; and “Jews Out.”
Another set of graffiti, across several outside walls of a building, occurred in Epping, Sydney, in March 2019. Using racist terms, the graffiti called for people of east Asian, south Asian and African backgrounds to “go home” or “f*** off.” However, when it came to Jews, the graffiti did not call for their emigration or deportation — but instead, for the their death: “Kill Jews” and “Kill the Jews.” The graffiti was accompanied by Nazi and white supremacist words and symbols, as well as Holocaust denial.
Even sitting Members of Parliament were not spared from antisemitic graffiti, particularly during the federal election campaign. Several Jewish MPs had their election campaign corflute posters daubed with antisemitic graffiti. Josh Frydenberg, Member for Kooyong (in Melbourne) and Federal treasurer, had a Hitler moustache, devil horns (a trope from the Middle Ages that Jews have horns) swastika, and dollar sign daubed on several of his election campaign posters.
Julian Leeser, Member for Berowra, (in Sydney), and also Jewish, had antisemitic daubings on several of his election campaign posters: a swastika on his forehead and a Hitler moustache, dollar signs over his eyes. Leeser explained: “The $$ refer to old antisemitic lies of an international Jewish banking conspiracy; that Jews have control of the world’s money supply.”
Emails are another way to gauge the level and intensity of antisemitic sentiment, and provide more detailed information on how others view Jews. There was a 61 percent increase over the previous year in antisemitic emails to Jewish individuals and Jewish community organisations. The sentiments expressed the themes that Jews are parasites, leeches and scum, that Jews control the world, that Jews belong in hell, that Hitler should have killed every single Jew, that the Holocaust was fake, and that Jews will soon be exterminated. Some used the word “kike” — a highly derogatory term for “Jew.”
Extracts of some of the individual emails include: “Kikes are so scatological and ugly. Jews are the world’s foremost problem”; “Filthy Jewish sacks of shit … you scatological Jewish sack of shit. Just another yid wasting my time you kike c***”; “You Dirty Juden!! … a filth Jew pig like you”; “You reptilian filth — Satan is coming for you!”; “Jews are scum and gutless pigs. Burn in hell. Long live Hitler”; “A pity Hitler didn’t gas every last Jew alive”; “When you come across a Jew … strike him in the head … he will die”; “I will be so happy to put a bullet on your skull”; “The worldwide parasite strikes again”; “These worms have infiltrated everything with money to destroy the gentile”; “You scum are just creating conflict here as you’re doing in the middle east and have done for thousands of years”; “You are all a bunch of stinking uncivilised parasites who should be isolated and left to self-extinct”; “Your time of leaching off us will come to an end soon. You’re nothing but scum baby killers”; “the Jewish strong hold of this planet is nearing it’s end. The world awakes to the Jewish parasite and all it’s worldly plunder. Jewish existence is fleeting”; “Soon kikes, soon!”; “You will face the ovens again … for the final solution to the scourge of the jew”; and “You, satanic jewish leech … soon we will exterminate you — till the last satanic jewish viper!”
In a concerted campaign, a series of six different emails targeted Dr Kerryn Phelps, Independent MP for Wentworth (in Sydney), in March to May 2019. Each email was sent to an unknown number of recipients, perhaps in the hundreds or even thousands. The emails targeted Kerryn Phelps for being openly Jewish and a lesbian, and also targeted the Jewish community. The main themes in the emails consisted of: “The Jews … are spreading measles and many other diseases … and plans [sic] to spread the plague to every corner of Australia”; and “don’t vote for any Jewish candidate like Kerryn Phelps.”
Some antisemitic incidents were by means of postal mail, including letters and printed material. A letter threatening a Jewish family included the text: “Jewish scum you have 24 hours to live you and your shit family are lying scum and you are going pay with your life.” Printed material included leaflets with the words: “all Jews will be destroyed … Jews are not made in the image of God but of Lucifer.”
Other threats against Jews were conveyed by telephone. Some of these included the words: “You dirty jew”; “All Jews should be assassinated by Hitler again because you’re an animal”; “Heil Hitler, Heil Hitler”; and “I am gonna burn down all your synagogues by tomorrow.”
The eighth, and final, category of incidents is posters and stickers. Hate propaganda by the neo-Nazi group, Antipodean Resistance, continued but at lower levels than in the previous two years. Antipodean Resistance stickers, in several styles, were plastered on at least fifteen sites across Sydney and Melbourne, including at a Jewish aged care home with some residents being Holocaust survivors. Other neo-Nazi stickers, with the words “Waffen Totenkopf,” “SS” and a death’s head skull, were placed at a Jewish community venue in Perth.
Several antisemitic posters were put up. A poster of “Research The JQ” (“JQ” referring to “the Jewish Question,” a term used by Jew-haters) was put up in Ipswich. A pair of posters were put up in Sydney; one with the text, “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes truth 6 million Jews” (with the word “truth” crossed out); the other with the text, “Jews …” and an antisemitic caricature of a Jew saying “we’re victims, goy, remember the six gorillion lampshades!” and then the further text: “Unfounded anti-Semitism? Maybe it’s the financial scamming, banking, corporate slavery, usury, political corruption, media manipulation, Talmudic supremacism, child trafficking, sex trafficking, Communism, social subversion, open border subversion …”; someone added in handwriting “Kill” before “Jews” and “Hitler should have finished the job.”
The ECAJ Report on Antisemitism does not include online content as incidents — this is classified as antisemitic discourse, and as such does not occur in the tally of incidents. However, the ECAJ report does devote sections to online content, because these provide an indication of some of the discussions and racist ideas that are occurring on mainstream sites and within extremist circles online.
With the rise in antisemitism, in Australia and elsewhere, there needs to be a more concerted and comprehensive effort to counter antisemitism and other forms of racism and bigotry. A major step towards this in Australia would be the establishment of a national data base for hate-motivated crimes, education and training of police and others to enhance their ability to identify and deal with hate crime and hate incidents, and a body to advise government and police on these matters. In particular, Commonwealth and state laws against incitement and threats of violence, on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and the like, need to be effective and workable.
As aptly expressed by Katharina von Schnurbein, EU Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism: “Fighting anti-Semitism is a responsibility for the society at large and must not be left to the Jewish community. Anti-Semitism needs to be fought on all levels and by all possible actors.”